Executives at some of the most innovative companies such as Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Proctor & Gamble, and Southwest Airlines, realize that, to be successful, they must find, and cultivate professionals who are able to come up with innovative and creative ideas.

In the December, 2009  Harvard Business Review article (“The Innovator’s DNA,” p.60) the authors point to five discovery skills as traits necessary for innovation:

  • associating (connecting seemingly unrelated questions)
  • questioning (considering new ideas)
  • observing (gaining insight into new ways of doing things)
  • experimenting (trying various approaches)
  • networking (to gain different perspectives).

The most powerful message in the article is that you can cultivate the ability to innovate.  The authors believe that creativity comes one-third from genetics and two-thirds from learning.  The more you engage in the 5 discovery skills, the more you’ll think in innovative ways.  The Harvard Business Review article suggests practicing by thinking of ways to challenge the status quo in your company, college or club.

An innovative idea has value if it helps your company to move forward so there needs to be either a commercial impact or an idea that will achieve company objectives (e.g. better client service, for example).  If you are having difficulty determining your innovative accomplishment, then ask colleagues for help.  They may come up with examples you haven’t thought of.

What do you think is the most innovative thing you’ve done?  What is the value of your idea (quantify it, if possible)?  Let us know how you answer the question.  We’re looking forward to hearing from you.


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